‘Nothing to Worry About:’ Senators Defend Federal Phone Data Gathering

June 6, 2013 Updated: July 18, 2015

The National Security Agency gathering records for millions of Verizon Wireless customers is both nothing new and nothing to worry about, according to some senators and the White House.

“An individual has nothing to worry about…they have to prove to a judge that there’s probable cause that you’re involved in terrorism,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), in a press conference called to address the record gathering. 

The Guardian published a story on May 5 detailing an alleged top secret order, issued in April, requiring Verizon to hand over all call data. The story prompted outcry from some about infringement of personal rights. The record collection includes “session identifying information” such as both phone numbers involved in the call, as well as time and duration of the call, according to the document.

The White House declined to comment on the specific order but said on May 6 that the practice of record gathering is “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States.”

And some U.S. officials defended the practice as well, saying it’s part of a network to stop terrorism. “If we don’t do it we’re crazy,” said Sen. Graham, according to USA Today.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the telephone records are “just meta data.”

“There is no content involved. In other words, no content of a communication,” she said, according to Talking Points Memo. “The records can only be accessed under heightened standards.”

The vice chair of the committee, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), said the record gathering is “nothing particularly new.

“This has been going on for seven years under the auspices of the FISA authority, and every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this,” he said.“It has proved meritorious because we have gathered significant information on bad guys, but only on bad guys, over the years.”

 

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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